Part 1: Students decipher mainstream music videos

Denise Barajas

Sex, money, violence and drugs have all become common themes in today’s music industry, but how does our generation interpret what they’re listening to? With so many different messages being pushed by mainstream music, it is up to the public to take on the challenge of deciphering what their music is telling them.

The State Hornet sat down with several students to get their input on the matter by having interviewees watch Rihanna’s “B- Better have my Money,” a video that was recently in the spotlight for being controversial.

Before the video is even shown, YouTube lets the viewer know that the video contains mature content due to violence, drugs and nudity.

As the story line of the video unfolds, the viewer watches as Rihanna kidnaps a presumably rich white man’s wife as ransom for him to pay her back the money he owes her.

Throughout the video Rihanna engages in criminal behavior by doing drugs and physically abusing the woman with the help of two other female companions. She explicitly states numerous times in the chorus, “your wife in the backseat of my brand new foreign car. Don’t act like you forgot, I call the shots.”

Towards the end of the video, Rihanna, tired of the man not fulling his promise of paying her back ends up killing him. The video closes with a blood splattered, nude looking, Rihanna casually smoking while lying in a chest full of money.

With so many explicit graphics, students had a lot to say about Rihanna’s video.

“The first time I ever watched it I was kind of disturbed. I think what caught me the first time I watched it was the blood at the end. And how I felt bad for the woman because she was naked and it was just really weird and all the drugs and the drinking…they were really taking advantage of her and it was just really cruel,” said Rebecca Rodriguez a junior art education major.

Rodriguez went on to say, “she looks like she’s using her woman powers… and she probably feels empowered but at the same time they’re using this woman as a ransom. And to me that’s like why is a woman taking advantage of another woman and using her like that? It seems anti-feminist.”

Junior year child development major Andrew Saindon commented, “The whole thing was just very disturbing to me…I don’t see it as empowering women and if it is I wouldn’t say it’s in the right way.”

However, despite all of these issues with Rihanna’s video, Rodriguez still agreed that it was a form of art, “as an art student, I think it is artistic, I may not like it but a lot of time people say art is meant to make a statement and to make you feel uncomfortable sometimes. And so it’s her way of expression; she’s using the shock value to make a statement… There are artistic qualities to the video even if you may not like it because it’s her way of expressing herself… I can’t say it’s not art ’cause is it.”

When asked what kind of message was being portrayed through Rihanna’s video, Rodriguez laughed as she answered, “Don’t eff with her money. But other than that I can’t see any other meaningful message behind it honestly. She is just expressing her assertiveness and her willingness to take control.”

Art or not, both Rodriguez and Saindon still agreed that despite being in her right to express herself, Rihanna is still making a statement that could lead some viewers astray.

“It’s like they’re making the violence glamourous, they are committing a bunch of crimes but they’re wearing these nice clothes and at the end she has her money… if a person is young or naive they can easily interpret this as being cool,” said Rodriguez.

When asked if artists like Rihanna should be held accountable for being role models to their viewers, second year criminal justice major, Maira Pacheco, answered, “I don’t think so. Just because she’s an artist doesn’t mean she has to be a role model. I think she’s just like everybody else and she should have the right to do whatever she wants.”

However, not all students share Pacheco’s sentiments.

Fourth year psychology major, Kendra Marquez, said, “I have a little sister who’s ten and she watches everything I do and so I definitely try to be careful about what type of choices I make. I know I don’t have to do that, there are plenty of older siblings or grown adults who do whatever they want regardless of who is watching but I think to some extent that’s our society just being naive…everybody always complains about how the world is going down hill but nobody ever takes a step back and thinks ‘what type of message am I putting out there?'”

Marquez continued by saying, “I guess as an older sister it’s frustrating at times that I can’t protect my little sister from all of those bad messages people careless put out there in the name of ‘art’…people just don’t understand you can’t chose to be or not to be a role model because we are all learning from each other.”

Regardless of what message viewers may interpret from videos like Rihanna’s, only time will tell how well this generation anatomizes what it listens to and the repercussions that may follow because of it.